Posted by: Vicki Burns | September 12, 2012

Manitoba Floods, Lake Winnipeg Blue-Green Algae Problems and How We’re Spending Money – Disaster Relief Costs Versus Prevention Investments

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by Alex Paterson who writes for the University of Winnipeg  paper, The Uniter. He was writing an article about the federal government’s recent announcement of $18 million more for the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative over the next 5 years. The Lake Winnipeg Foundation had sent out a press release thanking the federal government for this announcement but cautioning the public that probably a major chunk of that money would be going to pay staff already on the payroll at Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans. In the first phase of the Lake Winnipeg Initiative of $17 million, only $2.46 million went to “on the ground” new projects geared to decreasing excess nutrients getting into our waterways.  Most of the rest of the money went to staff in those federal departments.
We appreciate the valuable work done by Environment Canada and DFO staff. Our public comment was not to diminish the value of their work but rather to alert the public to the need for a much greater amount of money to fund projects, like wetland protection and restoration, that will decrease flood threats, decrease excess nutrients flowing into our lakes and mitigate for future drought threats.
In researching information for the article Alex Paterson wrote, he requested some concrete information from the federal government on the breakdown of the money allocated to the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative. You can see the specifics in this follow up article he wrote but the information I found most striking was the amount spent on flood disaster relief in Manitoba over the last 10 years.
2002/2003       $2,747,649

Flooding in Manitoba 2011

2003/2004       $-
2004/2005       $7,292,493
2005/2006       $37,694,417
2006/2007       $7,045,162
2007/2008       $23,552,493
2008/2009       $565,937
2009/2010       $-
2010/2011       $40,286,253
2011/2012       $50,000,000
2012/2013       $58,941,680
Total           $228,126,084
Add to that amount the $850,000,000 we spent in Manitoba in one year alone (2011) and you can see that the cost of floods is really adding up.  The amount of money we’ve spent on flood disaster relief is well over $1 billion now. The amount we’ve spent on preventative measures such as wetland protection and restoration is miniscule in comparison( possibly $2 million).  Isn’t it time to get serious about investing in some preventative measures that will decrease flood risks at the same time as helping to clean up Lake Winnipeg?



  1. Your post made me think. Thanks for a good article.

    Check this, reported in The Western Producer on Sept. 14:

    “WHITEHORSE — As governments shift their policy focus from farm income support to innovation and competitiveness, a new innovation committee will be a key player in the success or failure of the move. Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced creation of the agri-innovators committee Sept. 14 at the end of the federal-provincial ministers’ meeting in Whitehorse…”

    RE Feds spending on farm disaster insurance…my take:
    It used to cover up to 85% when income 15% below 85% of multi year’s average. Revised to 75% of 25% below 75% (just announced by Minister Ritz). Perhaps, reduced insurance premiums (paid by farmers and gov’ts) that reflect reduced coverage = increased potential for funds to LWW improvements.

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